People are more interested in resolving petty disputes at the local level due to delays, harassment, and expenses incurred in court cases, speakers said at a virtual discussion on Saturday.
They said new law is needed to settle petty disputes at the city corporation level.
Conciliation of Dispute (Municipal areas) Board Act, 2004 is more often used by peoples who want to settle petty disputes and not seek help from court to save money and reduce harassment, the speakers observed.
Similarly, they said, village courts resolve petty disputes of the people at the union level.
However there is no such law for more than 20 million people living in 12 city corporations of the country, they said.
These opinions emerged at a virtual discussion session on “City Court Act: Proposed Outline and Possibility of Implementation”, organised jointly by the Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA); the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh; Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and Nagorik Uddyog.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Convenor of Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Chairman, Madaripur Legal Aid Association, chaired the dialogue.
The discussion session was attended by legal experts, academicians, human rights activists, NGO workers and journalists.
Khan Mohammad Shahid, Chief Coordinator, MLAA, made the keynote presentation.
He pointed out that there are around 36 lakh cases still pending in the country's courts at different levels, that translates to nearly 2000 cases per judge (1883) in the country yet to be resolved.
The number of judges per 100,000 of population in the country is about 0.73.
As a result, the city residents face financial losses, harassment and various adversities and there are also delays to settle small disputes in the courts, it said.
Local settlement of petty disputes can be an easier and quick resolution of certain disputes in every city corporation's jurisdiction, Khan said.
As of now, no law has been enacted to resolve petty disputes between citizens in the city corporation areas, he mentioned.
People in the city have to go to court for small cases and wait at least two years to resolve it.
Fazlul Haque, Secretary, MLAA, gave examples of dispute resolution at local level and explained why a law is required to settle disputes in the city corporation areas.
Architect Iqbal Habib, thinks that local level dispute resolution will play a big role in urban management.
To ensure inclusive urban benefits, city courts will create opportunities for equitable and social services.
Z I Khan Panna, Advocate, Bangladesh Supreme Court, thinks that the use of the term "city court" involves various processes, including the appointment of judges and lawyers.
Professor Tofail Ahmed, local governance expert, agreed with the statement, saying the process should be considered as an alternative dispute resolution system.
Zakir Hossain, Chief Executive, Nagorik Uddyog, also highlighted that to ensure people’s access to justice and overall rethinking of governance system is required.